On October 5th, thirty-five female students from McGill travelled to Harvard’s Women in Business Intercollegiate Business Convention to hear from the best and brightest women of today speak to their experiences as strong female leaders. With one thousand earnest young ladies in the room, it was the most estrogen I had ever experienced in a weekend. Focusing on themes of leadership, philanthropy, and impact, CEOs, COOs, and Global Industry Leaders shared their insight and experience on the state of the modern woman in the office and in the world.
Today, regardless of where she comes from, each woman must speak for and stand up for herself. Change brought about by this new wave of feminism must come from all women in all societies. The event was an opportunity for participants to gain insight on how to make it—success, leadership, or happiness—happen.
Here are three truly insightful messages from three inspiring women and impactful leaders:
“We have a duty to fight for a woman who can’t.”
–Maria Eitel, President & CEO Nike Foundation
Eitel founded The Nike Foundation in 2008 as a way to integrate corporate social responsibility into Nike’s corporate structure. Eitel began researching the 250 million adolescent girls globally living in poverty. Launching a study under The World Bank later titled The Girl Effect Dividend, Eitel determined that by investing in adolescent girls through education and empowerment, poverty could be stopped before it started. She concluded that girls are the world’s most underused resource.
At the conference, Eitel spoke about “The Girl Declaration”, a social media declaration made on an individual and organizational level to fight for the girls who can’t. To follow and show your support, sign the declaration with #GirlDeclaration.
“If not me who? If not now when?”
–Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon Inc.
Starting as a Hooters hostess at the age of 17 and dropping out of college, Kat Cole has leveraged every opportunity she has had to grow to the woman who inspired me on October 5th. At 26, she became one of the youngest executives in the hospitality industry before making her move to Cinnabon. Her insights related to her career and leadership abilities were inspiring.
From the start, Cole believed that everyone has the power to be in her shoes one day: man or woman, we all have the ability to be a leader. For Cole, the best way to become a leader is to not be above doing anything. As young students, we need to make ourselves indispensable to our managers, doing things that no one else wants to do, to get noticed. Beyond the minimum-wage summer jobs, it becomes a personal initiative to make it to the top. Her key statement explains to both men and women that now is the time to take the edge. She asserts that now is the time to work the hardest we ever will, because if not now, when?
“Handle challenges with grace.”
–Farzana Haque, Global Head of Europe Telecom at Tata Consultancy Services
Haque spoke not only about how she used her intelligence to gain power and leadership the consulting field, an intensely male-dominated environment especially in Asia and the Middle East where Haque oversees Tata’s Consultancy Services. She explained that despite her position, she is still not perceived as an equal in the Boardroom. Nevertheless, she declared the importance of muting the naysayers and instead having confidence in your expertise. Furthermore, she explained that being a modern woman in business is about handling challenges with grace. Women can often be perceived as irrational and acting graceful in a situation will conceal what would usually be perceived as weakness.